S & J Nursery’s Guide to Growing
Farfugium japonicum / Leopard Plant
in the Northeast Florida Landscape
( Farfugium Japonicum)
Farfugium Japonicum / Ligularia / Leopard Plant / Tractor Seat Plant….The list just keeps
Farfugium is one of those new introductions that growers keep trying to stick another
common name onto and none of those names seem to want to stick around a while. Nobody seems to want to
call these hardy landscape plants by their actual name. Would it harm us in some way to just call something
by it’s binomial nomenclature given to it by the expert botanists and avoid unnecessary confusion with
other plants of different species? No, I guess not, but those same experts will just change their minds about
what plant family it belongs to in another year or two and change it again like they changed it from Ligularia
to Farfugium. (Rant much anyone? Ok, I am
done I promise, science the ever changing fact book)… so in true
nurserymen fashion, we just keep renaming them in the hope that the new fabulous common name will help
the plant magically disappear from the retail shelves they are displayed on. If Farfugium
japonicum is to much of a mouthful, what in the world DO YOU call these plants?
There is nothing like them. Big showy stalks of daisy-like blooms on thick leathery leaves that
look like they belong on the set of a Jurassic Park movie.
Dinosaur foot? Why not, we call Alocasias and Colocasias Elephant Ear Plants! See,
there I go, needing a better name to call these fantastic plants! I love them and something must be ingrained in
my nursery plant growing mind that in order to convince you to love them I must come up with a fantastic new
name to call them!
Well I do love them, I have found that gardeners that I show them to either instantly love
them or they instantly hate them. There seems to be no middle ground. I was, of course, in the instantly love
them group and have grabbed up every cultivar I have run across since the day I first saw them. There are
spotted farfugiums that remind me of a cloudless sky on a starry night, there are big bold 12 -15 inch
wide farfugium that have dark green shiny leaves that grab your attention. Then there are soft gray
green Farfugium with beautifully ruffled leaves and almost a velvety look to the foliage.
One of the “starry night” cultivars as I call them, Farfugium ‘Aureomaculatum’ ,was awarded the
Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit, so if you love them, you’re in good company!
These easy to care for plants are quickly gaining popularity. I am seeing even more selections available to grow with a combination of any of those
characteristics. It seems that all of them have the beautiful stalks of bright and cheery
yellow fall flowers each year that I fell in love with in the first place.
Farfugium japonicum hails from the east and can be found in their native land of
Japan, growing happily and hardily, much like they do here in our Northeast Florida landscape.
Protecting Your Farfugium Plants From Winter Temperatures
Here in our Northeast Florida subtropical climate zones, these plants are hardy
perennials that need no winter protection. They remain evergreeen here in our zone 9 Jacksonville and
St. Augustine Florida area gardens.
Where to Plant Your Farfugium japonicum / Leopard Plant / Tractor Seat Plant
Best suited to moist but well drained and not wet or soggy soils. Amend soil generously with
compost when planting as they prefer humousy soils.
Farfugium can be planted into partial sun/shade areas of the landscape and grow well under
dappled shade from taller trees and palms.
When planted into a sunnier location more frequent irrigation may be needed to keep the
plants upright and happy as they tend to wilt with the heat during dry spells here in Florida. Don’t let that
deter you from planting them. These plants are great “moisture meters” as they will be the first to let you know
when the soil is too dry. Farfugium is also very forgiving and will bounce back up from it’s wilted
state quickly when watered.
For people like me who don’t leave their irrigation systems on a preset clock and only water on
an “as needed” basis, they are the perfect ‘moisture sensors’. When planted among sensitive plants that may
not be so forgiving of lack of attention they will wilt and let you know it is time to water. You can spot
water needs before it is too late for your less forgiving plant selections.
Farfugiums are said to grow along rocky coastal cliffs in their native lands, so it
is a fairly safe assumption that they will fare well as a coastal landscape planting here in our Northeast
Florida landscapes but I am unable to scrounge up enough information on these plants to confirm their level of